Advice from Richard Branson: give your employees freedom

By Jack Preston of Virgin

Richard Branson

You won’t come across many people who have never had a boss. The thought of not having someone to answer to at work is a peculiar one for most people, however for Richard Branson it’s a natural state of affairs.”Having always worked for myself, I’ve never had to play by anyone else’s rules, and I wouldn’t want to. This attitude has shaped my approach to management since Virgin’s early days, when I decided to grant our employees many of the same freedoms that I enjoy,” wrote the Virgin Group Founder in a recent entrepreneur.com blog.

Without a rule book to adhere to or a rigid company policy to bear in mind, Branson and his Virgin staff have managed to shake up countless industries over the years. A company defined by a ‘Screw it, let’s do it’ attitude towards tough decisions, Virgin has seen its refreshing outlook pay dividends and win the faith of consumers.

“Today the Virgin Group is made up of dozens of companies headed by CEOs and managers who have the freedom to run their businesses as they see fit. This philosophy goes against the usual rules of business and may seem unmanageable, but it has turned out to be one of the keys to our success,” explained Branson. Who went on to highlight how this played out for one of the Virgin Group’s newest companies in 2012.

“Our newest business, the global touring company Virgin Live, had a great launch for this reason. Although the Virgin brand is well respected within the music industry given our roots we had no history of promoting global tours. However, our small, enthusiastic team at Virgin Live beat competition from giants within the industry and won the right to promote The Rolling Stones’ 50 & Counting series of shows. This was a very proud moment for us: If you are going to enter this business, there really isn’t a bigger or better way to show your intentions.

“Before their show at London’s O2 Arena, I caught up with Mick Jagger to have a word and take a few photos with him and my family. After we were chatting he jokingly asked me if I was going to disappear, because ‘That’s what all the other promoters do.’ I had no intention of doing so. ‘I’ll be seeing you down the front,’ I told him.

“My family and I watched the show standing in front of our seats near the stage. It was a fantastic night – they put on a marvelous show. Why anyone would have passed up the opportunity to see it is beyond me. I thought later that Mick’s question showed why we had won the contract: Our employees love what they do and throw themselves into the work, so they achieve much more than anyone would expect.”

Men want freedom, women want security. Give it to them, and life is easy.

Jeremiah Josey

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